The streak lives

Looking back on my blog's archives, I'm surprised and impressed to see that I've managed to post at least once per month, every month, since March of 2003. I have a few posts saved in draft that I have trouble motivating myself to finish, but I do want to get something up for February 2009. I don't want to resort to writing a script to automatically convert each of my tweets into a blog entry. That would be cheating.

Of course what I'm going to do instead, which is respond to a personal email with a blog entry, is probably cheating too.

Our friends Haley and Gabe came over sometime last month for dinner, and I made a chestnut soup and shepherd's pie. The soup was mostly just this recipe from the Minimalist and was a good way to use a packet of vacuum-sealed chestnuts from Trader Joe's leftover from Thanksgiving.

The shepherd's pie was something special, and something that I need to make again. It's a little too fussy for an everyday dinner, but it's more time consuming than difficult to prepare. Haley recently wrote me to ask for the recipe, so here's what I can recall doing. Don't worry too much about the proportions of the ingredients, and since the four of us finished it all in one sitting, I guess it makes four servings.

You'll need:

  • A solid 12" skillet. I used a cast-iron one, but I can't recommend buying cast iron unless you're prepared to take care of it properly.
  • Around a pound and a half of ground lamb. I'd go with lamb over beef here.
  • 6 normal sized carrots. I used multi-colored carrots from a bag I bought (at Trader Joe's), but I haven't seen them there again.
  • A cup or so of peas. Frozen peas are your best bet, even if you don't get them from Trader Joe's.
  • Some pearl onions. I got them in a vacuum pack from... did I mentioned there's a Trader Joe's down the street from my apartment?
  • 6 big, preferably starchy, potatoes.
  • Around a pint of chicken broth (Trader Joe's low-sodium chicken broth all the way).
  • Seasonings.
So the basic idea is to brown the ground meat in the pan, adding a small amount of salt and pepper and bit of cumin for flavor. When the lamb's given up a decent amount of fat and juices take out the lamb and put in a bowl lined with paper towels.

(Peel and) halve your pearl onions, peel and chop the carrots into good sized carrot pieces, and add both of those ingredients along with the frozen peas into the pan. There should be enough fat to handle the vegetables, but add some olive oil if need be. Sauté until the carrots are fairly soft, and things start to brown up.

Add the lamb back to the pan along with maybe half a cup of chicken broth–you don't want it too soupy though.

Although I didn't mention it before, it turns out that while you were doing all the previous steps you had a big pot of salted water boiling, and you added the potatoes to the pot (peels on or off). Actually, since I think you really need at least thirty minutes of constant boiling to get potatoes soft enough to mash, you should have done this part first. Once the potatoes are cooked through (slip a knife through them to test), take them out of the water and place them in a large mixing bowl. Gabe will not tolerate lactose, so I mashed them with chicken stock instead of milk to smooth them out, and they tasted great. Add salt and pepper to taste while mashing.

So now you have a bowl of hopefully enough mashed potatoes to cover the pan full of the meat and veg. Use a spatula-type thing to thickly coat the top of the mixture all the way across with mashed potatoes. It's like frosting a meat cake. Definitely try to get a complete coat, so that the steam from the chicken stock doesn't escape and instead helps all the veg finish cooking while it's in the oven.

And into the oven it will go, at say 375 degree for around 30 minutes. The deciding factor as to when it's done is basically the color of the potatoes on the top–cook it as long as you're willing to wait while making sure that the potatoes get golden without burning.

And then eat. You might want to take a picture of it first, which I unfortunately neglected to do.

But seriously, Trader Joe's.


Popular posts from this blog

Eddie Vedder is Still an Incoherent Drunk

Are you acquainted with our state's stringent usury laws?